Welcome to our Ag Blog. Our field scouts will offer a unique ground-level perspective from the field to you as an independent field scout with the San Joaquin Sustainable Farming Project. Our mission is to promote sustainable farming systems throughout the Central Valley and provide you with the latest information about cotton, almond and alfalfa crops. From time to time, you'll also find guest posts from our project team and other contributors. This Blog is produced by Gilbert Mohtes-Chan.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Wishing the Valley’s May Crops Will Benefit from April Showers
Will there be April showers for May crops?
After the rain over the weekend, the weather
forecasters are predicting the start of April tomorrow could be another wet one
– albeit far from a gully washer.
Still, farmers around here will take any
rain they can get during this drought. It helps the season’s first alfalfa crop.
It helps keep dust down around almond orchards – remember dusty roads can lead
to future mite woes.
In the greater scheme of things though, Mother
Nature isn’t likely going to bring an end to another dry year. March is
traditionally the last big month for rain to come down, according to state
water officials. The snowpack is a mere 15 percent of normal in the Northern
California mountains and 32 percent in Central California ranges.
Some growers are still uncertain about planting cotton.
field scout Carlos Silva reminds us that the first week of April last year saw
the first cotton seeds planted in the Valley. Usually, pre-irrigation is
occurring as growers prepare the fields for the coming year’s crop. Right now,
you can hear crickets rather than tractors.
A number of growers are on the fence right now –
still deciding whether to go ahead and plant cotton this year, Carlos notes.
During a recent water meeting sponsored by the California Cotton Ginners and Growers
Association, experts predicted cotton acreage could be the lowest since the
1920s. Their forecast put pima cotton at 130,000 acres and upland/acala at
There was a lot of pessimism in the air during the
meeting, Carlos says. One farmer, for example, indicated he won’t be farming
9,000 acres this season. In the Valley, cotton farming crosses generations of
families. Over the years, some continued to plant some cotton just to keep with
tradition. The drought could break many traditions this year.
Meanwhile in alfalfa, Carlos says weevils continue
to be a concern in some fields. He’s keeping an eye on them. Right now, the
pests aren’t at the UC IPM threshold for treatment. Carlos is finding some
aphids, but the populations are still in check. A good sign is parasitic wasps
– natural predators – are in the fields to keep the aphid populations under
NOW eggs are found in trap in almond orchard.
almonds, field scout Jenna Horine reports some worrisome navel orangeworm (NOW)
activity in a few orchards on the Valley’s Westside. She is finding NOW eggs in
the traps. Poor orchard sanitation – those orchards with mummy nuts left in the
tree – is the culprit in many cases. Watch for NOW problems later this season. In
one instance, though, Jenna found NOW eggs in traps in an orchard in which the
grower followed good mummy nut removal practices over the winter. His neighbor,
though, didn’t clear the mummies in his orchard. Too bad there isn’t a NOW
Day Alert: Monitoring Practices, Irrigation Tips, Pest and
Disease Management headlines an Almond Field Day on Thursday, April 17 from 10
a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rushing Ranch, 11599 W. Shaw Avenue in Fresno.
Speakers are David Doll of UCCE Merced, Gene Brandi of the American Beekeeping
Federation, Geurreet Brar of UCCE Fresno and Matthew Danielczyk, restoration
project manager for Audubon California. As always, the event is free and 2
hours of continuing education and 2.5 hours of CCA CEU credits will be
available. More details are at the Sustainable Cotton
Project website. The event promises to be full of
helpful information, especially during a drought year.